Engagement and expectation are the twin keys to a culture of creativity. We need to feel deeply engaged in what we're doing, intellectually and emotionally, and we need to feel an encouragement and expectation that we'll always be trying something new. That should be in the air we breathe!

One of my old college friends, wrote me this morning that he had been blogging for ten years, and just went through all the posts of the past to see what had stood the test of time. He sent me a link to one he had put up after an email exchange we had in 2005. I want to post it today as a "Guest Blog" on these thoughts from my old buddy, the immensely creative Ed Brenegar. Here's Ed's original blog post:

Pioneering Creativity - Being Emotionally and Intellectually Engaged

Tom Morris emailed me about the notion of creating a culture of creativity.  Here's what he said.

"I think this climate of creativity is fostered when people are emotionally and  intellectually engaged in their work. They should think of themselves as pioneers. That's what it was like in my early years at Notre Dame. We just assumed we were the pioneers in philosophy of religion. We were all engaged so that no interaction was bland. There was a general expectation that we were always trying out new ideas on each other. Not many departments were like that. There was too much "ordinariness" of expectation. Even knowledge workers can fail to be emotionally and intellectually ENGAGED.  It's almost a spiritual disposition."

I very much agree with Tom here. 

What intrigues me about his comment is the recognition of the "'ordinariness' of expectation" by other departments. Unless there is an intentional effort to raise standards, the lowest standard in an organization will rule. Or, it is the standard that requires the least amount of effort to maintain a level of performance that keeps the wolves at bay.

In order to foster a culture of creativity, it requires people who are emotionally and intellectually engaged, and for that to happen, the leadership of the organization has to set a standard for performance that is both compelling and counteracts the tendency to marginal goals and aspirations.

Ultimately, this goes to the character of individuals. What I have found is that low standards are a product of the lack of vision or personal calling to achieve and the self-confidence to venture into unknown territory.

The people we celebrate as heroes, like Nobel Prize recipients, explorers like Lewis & Clark and Shackleton and soldiers who fall on grenades to save their comrades, are people who are intellectually clear about what matters and emotionally passionate about the opportunities and the cost that their ventures bring. These are the leaders from whom we can learn how to pioneer creativity that brings greatness.

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